Where to eat, shop and play in Sydney’s Rainbow Precinct

The Rainbow Precinct in Sydney’s Darlinghurst is at the heart of the city’s LGBTQIA+ scene. Countless bars, clubs and retailers along Oxford Street cater to the community and beyond. It’s the route of the annual Mardi Gras parade and the spiritual heart of queer Australia.
Darlinghurst Fine Wines, Rainbow Precinct, Sydney.
Sydney’s Rainbow Precinct is the spiritual heart of queer Australia.

Entertainment can be found on Oxford Street in Sydney’s Darlinghurst at all times of the day and night – from drag shows to techno beats and disco tunes. And don’t pass up the opportunity to people watch from one of the many pubs, bars and cafes surrounding Taylor Square, the famous intersection painted in rainbow colours.

Behind the Rainbow Crossing there’s a local neighbourhood to explore, from cosy brunch and lunch spots to global food choices and distilleries.

You’ll also find street-style fashion in abundance around Oxford Square, where many of the precinct’s boutiques are clustered. Here you’ll find local and international labels such as Carhartt, Stussy, Supply and Pass~Port.

The Rainbow Precinct will be especially buzzing in June, as Sydney Pride Month arrives with an array of events. The month brings an extra abundance of theatre shows, spoken word performances, book signings, art exhibitions, drag shows, bingo and burlesque.

This month-long event aims to raise awareness, educate and support LGBTQIA+ charities, organisations and businesses, while fostering compassion and courage within the community and beyond.

A couple walks in front of a rainbow mural in Rainbow Precinct, Darlinghurst.
The precinct is awash in colour, even aside from the famous rainbow crossing in Taylor Square.

This strip is also the home of Sydney’s annual Mardi Gras Parade, the crown jewel in the annual Mardi Gras festivities which take place throughout Sydney from the end of February to the beginning of March each year. One of the largest LGBTQIA+ events in the world, it attracts hundreds of thousands of people along the parade route from Hyde Park to Moore Park, to watch the technicolour, glittery and sequinned floats celebrate and promote LGBTQIA+ rights issues and themes.

The Pink Mile, which includes Oxford Street and Taylor Square, is a hub of small bars, clubs and pubs. On any night of the week drag performances, DJs, live supper shows and burlesque can be enjoyed. Pride Month ramps up the glitz and glamour while raising funds and creating awareness for community groups and charities.

This year has also seen the opening of the new Qtopia Sydney museum. Pre- or post-show dinner and drinks can be had at any of the myriad venues in the neighbourhood, and dancing into the early hours is encouraged at the nearby night clubs.

Things to do
A drag queen talks to patrons at Kinselas.
Drag bingo at Kinselas, one of the precinct’s many iconic pubs.

Catch a live cabaret at Claire’s Kitchen At Le Salon, where you’ll find French food and performances on most nights of the week. 35 Oxford St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. 0493 233 870.

Stock up on cheese at Formaggi Ocello, a cheese-lover’s dream. You can always pair it with a bottle from the fine selection of liquors at Darlinghurst Cellars next door. Shop 17/425 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. (02) 9357 7878.

Update your street-style wardrobe at P.A.M. Store, an Australian brand known for its avant-garde designs and collaborations. Its Darlinghurst store also stocks select international labels. 304 Palmer St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010. (02) 9360 5488.

Try on something sparkly at House of Priscilla, which specialises in showstopping outfits. Even if you’re not in the market for sequins and feathers this iconic costume shop is well worth a visit. 1/47 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010. 0421 752 455.

Make sure to get amongst the action during Pride Month, when the Rainbow Precinct’s colours shine their brightest. The month of June is a vibrant and welcoming celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, with many events to choose from.

Eat and drink
Cicerone, Darlinghurst, Sydney.
Cicerone in Darlinghurst the best hidden Italian restaurant in town.

The Beresford. An airy pub with a sprawling beer garden and a dogs-welcome policy. The kitchen offers everything from a simple bowl of fries to wood-fired pizza and homemade pasta. 354 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. (02) 9114 7328.

Shady Pines Saloon. An underground speakeasy with an extensive whisky list, dapper bartenders and a vibe akin to a modern Wild West. 4/256 Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010.

Dead Ringer. A dead-set knock-out when it comes to legendary cocktails, seasonal dishes and interesting wines. 413 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. 0481 234 484.

Christopher’s Cake Shop. This Darlinghurst landmark has been serving up delicious Greek pies and pastries since the 1950s. A legend for a reason. 409 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. (02) 9360 4878.

Cicerone. The best hidden Italian restaurant in town. This authentic local gem serves up dishes that will recall memories of a Roman holiday. 417 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. (02) 8021 2866.

Brix Distillers. An on-site rum distillery and bar. In addition to an impressive liquor selection, the venue offers tours, rum spicing and cocktail classes. 350 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. (02) 9360 5441.

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